Beneath a full moon at The Joshua Tree Music Festival

Neal Francis performs at the Joshua Tree Music Festival May 14. Valley News/Shawna Sarnowski photo

Ava Sarnowski

Special to Valley News

The excitement was in full force on the second-to-last day of the Joshua Tree Music Festival, Saturday, May 14. The scorching temperatures of the high desert could be felt while walking toward the festival entrance, complemented by a gentle breeze.

Attendees signed in and were given wristbands with the inscribed with “Dance To Be Free” and “Let The Light In.” The two sayings affirmed the inherent beliefs of the festival planners. The event atmosphere was calm and welcoming, and people could establish their own space on the festival grounds with lawn chairs or yoga mats brought from home.

Many festival-goers were seen lounging in the sun, indulging in their passion for music. A designated play place for children provided space where they could kick around oversized beach balls.

The festival grounds were broken up into different areas, housing various stages for the guest musicians. In the afternoon, Los Angeles-based band Gorangutang performed on the Boogaloo stage. Attendees flocked in to listen and were swept up by their funky tunes. The 79rs Gang, a musician group that focuses on creating and releasing traditional Mardi Gras Indian music, performed shortly after. Gracing the Indian Cove Stage, the group involved the audience before them with their head-bobbing tunes. Each performance meant to establish an authentic relationship with those watching.

Shacks, lounge areas, small shops and merchandise booths could be found lined up around the grounds, selling hats, sunglasses, cactus mart, clothing, jewelry and much more. Artists showcased their murals on the barricades, and many paintings were created over the course of the day.

Poetic writings pertaining to both love and peace decorated the area, while the aroma of sushi burritos, teriyaki bowls and mac ‘n’ cheese drifted through the air.

Entertainment could be found at every corner, even when the musicians weren’t performing. Aerialists danced against the settling sun and snatched the attention of countless attendees. One festival-goer juggled, another two offered free shrugs.

Come nightfall, Chicago-based musician Neal Francis and his band members took to the Indian Cove Stage. The audience was engrossed by their performance and grooved enthusiastically to various songs from his studio albums, “Changes” and “In Plain Sight.” The on-stage chemistry between Francis and his band members, combined with their electrifying energy, resulted in a spectacle of an experience.

Following Francis were performances from The California Honeydrops and DJ Dan. The California Honeydrops specialize in bringing a soulful and uplifting sound to their listeners, while DJ Dan creates contemporary beats reflective of 70s disco and 80s/90s house music.

The festival will return in October, and booking tickets in advance is highly encouraged. For more information, visit